Date: 19th December 2003

Pope sees Gibson's controversial Christ film

The Pope has seen Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion about Christ's final hours and was moved by it, according to a Vatican source.

Pope John Paul saw the film with his long-time Polish secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, about 10 days ago, reports

The source also confirmed reports that the Pope told his secretary after viewing the film: "It is as it was," meaning he considered it authentic.

The movie has come under fire from some Jewish groups who fear its story could promote anti-Semitism as it portrays Jewish authorities as largely responsible for Christ's death.

But Catholic and other Christian groups, as well as biblical scholars, have defended the film, saying it sticks closely to accounts of the crucifixion as told in the New Testament.

The film, due to be released in February, has been shown to a select audience of Catholic officials in several private screenings in recent weeks.

The 83-year-old Pope viewed the film on a video monitor in his apartments, the source said.

Abraham H Foxman, US director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the group would respect the Pope's views

"The Pope has a record and history of sensitivity to the Jewish community and has a clear moral voice and understanding when it comes to anti-Semitism," Foxman said.

Source: Press Release